I did something last night that I rarely do. In fact, I could add up all the times I did it last year on one finger. But for some strange reason (perhaps I’m still feeling the effects of the recent full moon) I decided to put my face on before I went out.
My relationship with make-up is quite cosmetic. I usually only wear it when I’m not in a good place; when my confidence is at a low ebb and I need to put a wall, however thin, between me and the world. Or when I’m venturing out of my comfort zone and need to play a role. Trying to make it look as if I’m not wearing any at all is key. I hate looking ‘made up’ and, being innately lazy, I am fascinated by other people’s dedication to it all. [According to Helena Rubenstein: There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.]
I had a good look at my fellow tram travellers and every woman, without exception, had a face on. Some were bolder than others, more stylish, more out there, but every woman I saw, regardless of age, was masked up. Collectively, I was looking at eight hours of effort – one working day.
The US FDA defines cosmetics as something ‘intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or functions’ and of those, promoting attractiveness is probably the main reason people would give. We’ve been using make-up for years – it’s been traced back as far as Ancient Greece and Egypt and it’s been in and of fashion ever since. In the 19th century, Queen Victoria declared it vulgar and improper and the only people who should wear it, according to her good self, were actors. But it came into its own in the early twentieth century and has been enjoying huge popularity ever since. And its much more convenient. No more using burnt matches to darken eyebrows, or berries to stain lips, or urine to get rid of freckles or arsenic to get that sought-after pale look. Now it all comes in tube, safe and tested. [Wasn’t it Yves Saint-Laurent who said: The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy…]
But back to last night…me with my face on. A number of people commented on how well I was looking, asking what I’d done to my hair. No one noticed the make-up. Mission accomplished. But then earlier in the week when I was at GOTG sans face, I received similar compliments and inquiries about my hair. This would suggest that the make-up did little for me and that extra effort was wasted… if indeed I was wearing in the first place in an attempt to look better and garner more compliments (which wasn’t the case…).
Objectively I can say that yes, I did look better than usual. But in actuality, could I be bothered doing it every day? I don’t think so. As I spent a precious five minutes cleaning off the residue, I had a flashback to Mulranny beach in the west of Ireland. In my mind’s eye, I could see its stones, in their various shapes, sizes, colours, and textures – each one lovely in its own right. And I got to thinking about nature and naturalness and how beautiful it can be. And I realised that I’m fortunate enough to have inherited my mother’s good skin and that really, there’s no need to mess with it. And for that, I’m truly grateful.